Drug Deaths Kill More Americans than Total Casualties in Vietnam War

The United States military involvement in the Vietnam war began in 1965 and lasted until the last American troops pulled out in 1973. The eight-year conflict cost more than 58,000 American lives. I was born in 1972 and have no memory of the Vietnam War except what I learned in high school and saw in movies like, Born on the Fourth of July, which gave me the impression any soldier going to Vietnam was going to die. Statistically, the odds of an American soldier dying in Vietnam was about ten-percent; one out of every ten died in combat.

In comparison, according to the latest statistics, published in January 2019 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”), 70,237 Americans died from drug overdoses. Of this number, opioids are responsible for 47,600 deaths, and heroin is responsible for 15,182 deaths. According to a recent report from CNN, the odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose in the U.S. surpasses those of dying in a car accident. This is about one death every eight minutes; fewer people die from gunshot wounds. The only worse statistic for accidental deaths or preventable deaths is suicide which is not entirely a separate subject.

The short and simplified summation of these statistics is more Americans are dying every year from drug overdoses, about twenty-percent more, than all of the Americans who died in the Vietnam war.

Growing up in the eighties there were two irrefutable facts hammered into the minds of America’s youth, one, Russia and the United States are going to have a nuclear war, and two, if you have sex you are going to get AIDS and die. Being a hypochondriac I was scared to death about getting AIDS, though not too concerned about having a nuclear war.

1995 was the deadliest year of the AIDS crisis counting 41,699 deaths; still, that’s 42% fewer then drug-related deaths in 2017. I am not making light of AIDS-related deaths, I am just trying to illuminate how bad the addiction crisis is. This raises the question of why my generation was afraid of contracting AIDS and the current generation doesn’t appear to be afraid of dying from a drug overdose. The chances of a sexually active person being infected with AIDS in the 1980s was significantly lower than an addict dying from a drug overdose in 2019.

Perhaps the difference is, only some people are addicted to drugs, and most people have sex. If you’re not an opioid or heroin addict these statistics may not alarm you, except its almost certain someone you care about is.   

Statistics can be analyzed in multiple ways, however, the facts are irrefutable.

The year following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, the number of American casualties may have been none or close to it. And, while 1995 saw the highest number of deaths from AIDS, the following years 1996 and 1997, AIDS-related deaths fell to 31,130 and 16,685 respectively. In 2016, 15,807 people diagnosed with HIV died, however, these deaths may be due to any cause, according to the CDC.

I could continue with more statistics, airplane crashes, shark attacks, gun violence, and still nothing would come close to the number of accidental and avoidable deaths caused by drug overdoses and suicide.

The only guarantee against a fatal overdose is abstinence. Being a recovering addict myself, I understand the courage and strength it takes to get clean, so I will spare you the lecture. Just remember help is available if you want it, and lastly, given the opportunity to choose between going to Iraq to fight ISIS or using heroin, I would start packing.

Unlock Our Free Sobriety Agreement and Relapse Prevention Plan

If someone you know is struggling with addiction, we can help. Get guidance today.

South Florida Intervention offers exclusive solutions for families struggling with the devastating effects of addiction. Marc Kantor is a professional interventionist and the founder of South Florida Intervention, based in Boca Raton, FL. If someone you know is struggling with addiction, we can help. For additional information please e-mail us at marc@southfloridaintervention.com.


How To Do An Intervention - Addiction Intervention 
Download Free Guide: How To Do An Intervention